Wednesday, 30 January 2008

the time I was nearly royalty

so the piano playing in the previous post reminded me of a really good memory at the start of my trip to Milan.

Staff night out the night before. The usual boring meal, tinkle talk and compliments on the food. The boss gets over excited and flushed. Not her fault, she's got a kid and doesn't get out much. Then we walk down the street, strain off the parents and oldies and it's on to the main event - double rum and cokes and bullshit at the bar. Riff with the leather dreadlocks guy and flirt with the stripy hoodie. Would do either, might do both, will probably end up with neither. The bouncers don't like my mates face so we walk head first into the sea blasts and go to the castle. Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink more and I end up at a house in town at 7 am with the dreadlock guy holding my hand under the table while I watch the uptight office girl smoking weed through a potato pipe.

Wake up at midday. BAMM. My fucking head is split in two. Roll off the bed and roll into the clothes from the nights before. I can hardly see as I stagger round the house, shouting cunt at the top of my voice is the only thing that makes me feel better. Films, cameras, passport and tickets; in a bag with some pants and a hat for luck. Bristol airport. Fuck, I'm so late. I should have left at 11. Plane at 4. Fuck, fuck fuck. Drive like a mentalist down the motorway, screech into the long stay car park, all the stuff falls out of my bag. I'm standing shaking as the security guard pats me down. If she touches my stomach I'm gonna puke on her. Get to the departure gate. 5 minutes to go. Sleep on the plane, 3 seats for myself, 2 hours later and I'm in Milan.

I've gone through tired and into wired. Walking isn't an effort any more but I still don't know where I'm going. Not booking anything seemed like such a good idea when I was at home but now it's 22.30 in a big city and I've got nowhere to go. Hotel? First one I see? Fake wood reception and plastic plants? Starched white impersonal sheets and a pastel picture on the wall. Not worth my money. Don't know where you are until you open the curtains in the morning. Fucking rip offs. I ain't paying for a plastic experience. So where am I going to go then? Eat. I need food too. The only food place I've seen so far was the McDonalds by the station entrance. Fuck that too.

I'm walking towards a restaurant, it has a long piece of red carpet leading to the door - they do that in Milan - and a little lit up menu on the wall. Inside the door is a pyramid of fruit, dripping with grapes and a multi-colour feast of fish on ice. Damm, too much money. I walk away. Then stop. Then come back. Fucking insecure, indecisive self.

Walk in, I hold up a single finger and I'm ushered to my seat. I don't want to be English so I change into a mute. Point to the menus, point to the bread. Smile, make lots of eye contact. Point to the wine list. My stomach is violently rejecting the thought of more booze but I force down the start of a bottle of merlot. And sit. And look around. And realise that I'm in a beautiful, calming place. The room is white with a high ceiling. There are mad pictures of the characters from the Matrix made out of tiny, sparkly black and silver squares hanging all over the place. At the end of the room is a huge grand piano and someone is playing it. They're playing beautiful music and as I listen to it I feel all the tension of the last 24 hours fall away. My shoulders feel lighter, my head comes up and the crippling hangover, the drive to the airport, nearly missing the flight, not bringing any spare clothes, no hotel.......blah, blah, blah. They all float away. I sit for what seems like two hours, eating my meal as slowly as possible. I feel like a queen, I've never eaten a meal to piano music before. (What a fucking chav. I also used to think eating a Vienetta was a sign of class when I was about 12 or so). Anyway, so the beautiful meal comes to an end. The bill? Enough to pay for a plastic hotel room but what I got instead was better. Better than I'd have got from a snotty receptionist, tiny bottles of shampoo and wipe clean upholstery. I feel reborn.

I take the half bottle of wine with me as I leave the table and walk down the road. No idea where I'm going, I walk round Milan for a while and watch the nightlife. Black, white and beige. Monochrome and stylish is how people live round here. I sit down on some stone steps, scooted up against a pillar. People can see me if they look but I'm out of eyeline so they don't often turn their heads. My face is hidden under my collar anyway so I don't feel too exposed. I sit for what feels like hours smoking rollies and drinking wine. Then, when I feel tired I lean over and hook the PVC cover off the stairlift next to me. It won't offer too much protection from December weather but it will at least be some kind of windbreak. I get sleep. Of sorts. Once or twice footsteps come close enough to make me worried but the empty bottle is close enough for me to smash if I need to go psycho on their asses.

Sleep, wake, sleep, wake, sleep, wake. Finally it seems light enough for me to get up. Empty streets and I walk in circles for a while until I find where I am on the map. Next step? Find an internet cafe and find a hostel.

Memory ends.

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